The thing we have learned over time is that the surveillance complex is steadily increasing in scale and has broadened far beyond the Internet.
Whonix users generally understand the net is a hostile place where privacy is concerned. But they may have a blind spot with reference to surveillance technologies that are rapidly filling physical spaces, reducing the availability of anonymous spheres that were once taken for granted.
The ACLU provides us with a nice reminder: https://theyarewatching.org/technology
- Social Media Monitoring Systems: Tracking of your individual activities on Facebook, Twitter and similar websites.
- Automatic license plate readers: Images are captured of passing license plates and entered into databases - date, time and location of the plate are automatically stored.
- Transmit mics: Installed on buses, trains and in subways in the US, police and transit security are able to eavesdrop on private conversations. (Although deaf to the legitimate concerns of subjects, authorities are curiously intent on knowing our innermost thoughts.)
- Body cameras: Police routinely record an officer’s activities with the public. (Unless conveniently turned off during the commission of a crime by officers.) Recordings of hundreds of people per day is feasible, such as bystanders, suspects, victims, associates and so on.
- RFID: Radio signals are emitted by radio frequency identification tags, allowing for possible tracking, and access to personal information.
- Cellebrite: Forensic extraction devices can extract the entire contents of a cellphone and bypass in-built security features .
- Infrared: Thermal (or ”infrared”) imaging is integrated into surveillance cameras. People can be observed even when it is dark, and sometimes inside of buildings.
- Drones: Unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct surveillance and undertake investigations. Ubiquitous drones means entire areas could be subject to dragnet surveillance. (In the endgame, the authorities will insist it be coupled with facial recognition because of the “Terrorism” trump card.)
- Facial recognition: As cameras proliferate in modern life, they can be equipped with software to analyze human faces for unique features. (This technology is likely to be abused to conduct suspicion-less surveillance of general members of the public or to target “undesirable” groups.)
- GPS: An obvious tracking vector for targeted surveillance e.g. tracking device on a vehicle, or passive surveillance i.e. that beloved tracker that most keep on their person (cellphones).
- Malware: A threat most Whonix users are familiar with, but the sophistication, scope and availability of malware today heightens the risks of a succesful exploit.
- Wireless mesh networks: That “free” public infrastructure is just another means to track the location of cellphones, tablets and laptops because they have wireless cards. (Traffic is almost surely monitored by the government, because they are averse to unmonitored spaces.)
- Deep packet inspection: The entirety of a person’s unencrypted Internet traffic history can be inspected and/or copied from the network. (While governments will insist this targets only “serious suspects”, the passage of time will inevitably reveal that all traffic that was available for inspection, was thoroughly analyzed.)
- Cameras: The swarm of cameras in both private and public spaces is eroding our quality of life by putting us under continuous surveillance. In some places of the US, there is a high-tech camera on every corner, meaning people can be tracked from corner to corner as they make their way. When combined with facial recognition software and dubious behavioral algorithms subject to racial bias, this network is the real “Odin’s Eye” in meat-space.
- Stringray: Cell site simulators can track phones, tables and computers that use mobile phone networks. It is possible to intercept calls and texts, and possible even delivering spyware to devices. (Another law enforcement technology steeped in secrecy - transparency is apparently no longer the marker of good government.)
- Fingerprint scanners: Police are fond of taking the fingerprints of suspects (and non-suspects) with mobile devices. Unfortunately, abuses lead to the fingerprints of people not suspected of wrongdoing being collected.
Resistance isn’t futile, but the trajectory is very worrisome. It is undoubtedly more difficult to escape the matrix on a daily basis, and right-wing, reactionary governments in power everywhere are accelerating the drive to total information awareness.
How can privacy be protected in general? Well it requires a lot of effort and inconvenience in most cases:
- Avoid social networks.
- Avoid interactions with police and authorities in general.
- Shun cellphones perhaps completely or at least when mobile.
- Shield RFID chips.
- Avoid heavily populated/developed areas where cameras and bodycams proliferate (unless necessary).
- Keep using solid anonymity software (like Qubes-Whonix!).
- Avoid mesh networks.
- Avoid GPS trackers i.e. that cellphone you finger lovingly all day.
- Avoid using biometric security markers with private companies who are completely undeserving of trust.
- Limit the carrying of cellphones, tables and computers that use cellphone networks.
- Use cash.
- Public vs private transport: hard to say. Depends on the level of surveillance infrastructure in your neck of the woods.
(Or you can of course build a cabin in the woods. Your call.)